In the June issue of Dog World magazine, Terry Long wrote an article, "No Obstacles Required" in her agility column. Long chose an 8-week-old puppy as her "example dog." She mentioned that the animal is too young to do much in agility, but she starts with various "shaping experiences." These experiences come with playtime contact with the handler and consist of practicing balance and direction change as well as other basic moves. Long says her first shaping exercise consists of getting the pup to run into its crate, turn and immediately drop down. The pup is taught to wait for a release before it can charge out to play with her. Long feels this exercise teaches "impulse control and handler focus when released."
Long's second foundation skill is "relaxation." She feels that all dogs should learn to relax in their crates and ignore distractions or activities going on outside the crate. Her comment regarding the agility ring success is that a dog that is in high state of excitement will have difficulty at the pause board where it is expected to either sit or down for a specific time, as well as staying at the start line or pausing on the teeter totter. A dog that has learned to relax during the "off" times usually will be able to continue competing at an advanced age.
The third foundation skill Long teaches puppies is "drive." She defines this as motivation and uses food, treats, toys and play to get them motivated.
The fourth skill she works on involves teaching your dog to run alongside you as you jog. This gives the dog a perception of your body language that will be helpful in the agility ring.
She also teaches the basic sit, down, stay and come, and insists that the dog remain where it has stopped until given a release command. All these foundation skills will add up to a young dog knowledgeable enough to make decisions when it comes to obeying a command or investigating a distraction when in the agility ring.